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The Pressures Of Pastoral Ministry

The following statistics were sent out recently by Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ and the Global Pastors Network. These statistics come from across denominational lines and have been gleaned from various sources, such as Pastor to Pastor, Focus on the Family, Ministries Today, Charisma Magazine, TNT Ministries, and a few other respected ministries.

November 2002.

Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.

Four thousand new churches begin each year, but over seven thousand churches will close.

Fifty percent of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.

Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.

Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.

Ninety-five percent of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses.

Eighty percent of pastors surveyed spend less than fifteen minutes a day in prayer.

Seventy percent of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor.

Fifty percent are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.

Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.

Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.

Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.

Ninety percent of pastors said their seminary or Bible school training did only a fair to poor job preparing them for ministry.

Eighty percent of pastors’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked.

Eighty percent of adult children of pastors surveyed have had to seek professional help for depression.

Eighty-five percent said their greatest problem is they are sick and tired of dealing with problem people, such as disgruntled elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members, and associate pastors.

Ninety percent said the hardest thing about ministry is dealing with uncooperative people.

Seventy percent of pastors feel grossly underpaid.

Eighty percent of pastors’ wives feel left out and unappreciated by the church members.

Ninety percent said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be before they entered the ministry.

Seventy percent felt God called them to pastoral ministry before their ministry began, but after three years of ministry, only fifty percent still felt called.

Eighty percent of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession. Eighty percent of pastors’ wives feel pressured to do things and be something in the church that they really are not. The majority of pastors’ wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.

Churches have actually experienced a decline over the past year. The average church size has dipped from 102 adults in 1997 to 95 adults in 1998. This corresponds with a fifteen percent drop in the annual operating budget of churches, down from $123,000 to $105,000 in the past twelve months. Also, since the early nineties, church attendance and Bible reading among the nation’s adults have declined appreciably.

In North America, more than one-quarter of a million people serve others by pastoring a church. It has been said that pastoring may be one of the most demanding jobs – and one of the least financially rewarding.

As for spiritual gifts, seven of ten pastors (sixty-nine percent) claim that their primary gift is teaching or preaching. No other gift was listed by more than fifteen percent of the pastors interviewed. Relatively few pastors – five percent – say that they are gifted as leaders. Only three percent of all senior pastors claim that they have the gifts of teaching and leadership.

There are approximately 10,000 Seminaries/Bible Colleges in the world today. These institutions will only be able to produce approximately five to seven percent of the needed pastors, evangelists, and missionaries.

Less than ten percent of all ministers worldwide have ever had formal Bible College/Seminary training.

Considering the massive challenges facing pastors, we can appreciate what the Apostle Paul said:

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 12 And we urge you, brethren, to recognise those who labour among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.

We also read in the Scripture:

Hebrews 13:17 17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

The way leaders are protected and undergirded is illustrated in the life of David:

1 Chronicles 12:16-18, 21-22 16 Then some of the children of Benjamin and Judah came to David at the stronghold. 17 And David went out to meet them, and answered and said to them, “If you have come peaceably to me to help me, my heart will be united with you; but if to betray me to my enemies, since there is no wrong in my hands, may the God of our fathers look and bring judgment.” 18 Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, chief of the captains, and he said: “We are yours, O David; We are on your side, O son of Jesse! Peace, peace to you, And peace to your helpers! For your God helps you.” So David received them, and made them captains of the troop. 21 And they helped David against the bands of raiders, for they were all mighty men of valour, and they were captains in the army. 22 For at that time they came to David day by day to help him, until it was a great army, like the army of God.

Just like in days of old with David, Pastors today need people:

Who come to them in peace.

Who come to help them.

With whom they can truly unite.

Whose heart is for the success of the vision that God has given the Pastor.>

Who will become a great army, working for a common cause.

Others have described the incredible pressures faced by pastors. In an article in the May, 2001 edition of Charisma magazine, Tim Franklin wrote:

“Most sheep do not understand the incredible demands or expectations that are upon ministers to perform, provide, and produce. We normally speak at least two times a week, and we want our messages to be inspiring and life-giving. But it takes quality time along with God and periods of study to make them that way.

In addition, we are expected to counsel; lead a corporation; heal family relationships; build marriages; attend prayer meetings, fellowship groups, graduations, parties and baby dedications; raise money; build buildings; be involved in community events; oversee ministries; do hospital visitation; provide a 24-hour hot line service at home; and be model spouses and parents.

These are just a sample of the “expectations” placed on ministers! And all of them are important, all of them take the minister away from his or her family.”

In Pastors at Risk, H.B. London and Neil B. Wiseman wrote:

“Contemporary pastors are caught in frightening spiritual and social tornadoes which are now raging through home, church, community and culture. No one knows where the next twister might touch down or what values the storms will destroy. … Something has to be done. Ministry hazards are choking the hope out of pastors’ souls. They feel disenchanted, discouraged and often even outraged. … Fatigue shows in their eyes. Worry slows their stride. And vagueness dulls their preaching. … Overwork, low pay and desperation take a terrible toll as pastors struggle to make sense of crammed calendars, hectic homes, splintered dreams, starved intimacy and shrivelled purpose. Many hold on by their fingernails, hoping to find a hidden spring to refresh their weary spirits and scrambled thoughts.”

What are some things you can do for your pastor?

PRAY FERVENTLY – Pray for your pastor and the pastor’s spouse and family.

RESPECT SINCERELY – Be respectful and courteous. Honour your pastor as a gift from God. Esteem him highly in love for his work’s sake.

GIVE GENEROUSLY – Support your church financially – bring your tithes and offerings into the storehouse.

SERVE JOYFULLY – Serve in the church. Give freely of your time to the ministries and the programs of your church.

COMPENSATE APPROPRIATELY – Do all you can do to make sure your pastor is properly compensated. 1 Timothy 5:17-18 says, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The labourer is worthy of his wages.” In addition to a good salary and compensation package, bless your pastor on special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and at Christmas. Receive a special offering so the pastor’s family can go on a nice vacation. Don’t be like the stingy people who prayed, “God, you keep our pastor humble, and we’ll keep him poor.”

REFRESH FREQUENTLY – Make sure that your pastor is able to attend some continuing education events each year just for ministers. The pastor’s skills need to be refreshed and sharpened, and he needs to be ministered to also. If your church does not have it in the budget for the pastor to attend some of these events, a special offering is in order. The cost of the pastor’s continuing education and spiritual refreshing is something that the church cannot afford not to do; it is one of the best financial investments the church can make.

EXPECT REASONABLY – We all have certain expectations of spiritual leaders, but some expectations can be unfair and impossible to meet. Pastors are human beings. They are not perfect, nor do they have perfect spouses or children. Many pastors’ children have been hardened to church and the things of God because of harsh, judgmental attitudes coming from church members. I recommend you read:

The Ideal Pastor

I Am Your Pastor

It is my prayer that pastors will do more to guard their own spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being, and that churches will do more to honour, respect, and safeguard their pastors (and don’t forget the rest of the staff, either). With all of us working together, perhaps we can avoid having so many ministers praying the types of prayers that follow:

The fourth-century church father Saint Gregory of Nazianzus prayed: ‘I am spent, O my Christ, Breath of my life. Perpetual stress and surge, in league together, make long, oh long this life, this business of living. Grappling with foes within and foes without, my soul hath lost its beauty, blurred your image.'”

After graduating from Edinburgh University at age fourteen in 1827 and leading a Presbyterian congregation of over a thousand at age twenty-three, nineteenth-century preacher Robert Murray McCheyne worked so hard that his health finally broke. Before dying at age twenty-nine he wrote, “God gave me a message to deliver and a horse to ride. Alas, I have killed the horse and now I cannot deliver the message.”

NOTE: Focus on the Family, the organisation founded by Dr. James Dobson, has a division of their ministry entirely devoted to ministering to pastors. They have an excellent listing of resources and organisations specifically geared to providing help to pastors in need.

This information can be accessed at http://www.family.org/pastor/resources/pcd/


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